Will Serie A clubs challenge for honours in Europe next season?
Italian football has experienced a rough patch for over a decade. What started with Serie A club sides may have spilled over to the national team. Gli Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. The clubs have had a difficult period on the continent, and just like the presumed curse that hit World Cup Champions heading into the tournament, things have refused to improve. But the top sides are on a mission to change that.
Perhaps AC Milan tried too hard to rebuild. The Milan giant, Serie A's most successful European club is now in hot water over Financial Fair Play rules.
Juventus have come agonisingly close to lifting the Champions League in recent seasons, only to be denied by Spanish giants on both occasions. Other teams have failed to make any significant impact. But are things about to change?
Other than Real Madrid, no other club side can claim to have achieved more success on the continent than an Italian club. As for the Europa League, long before the Sevillas and Atletico Madrids of this world began to dominate the competition for Spain, Italian giants showed the continent how it's done.
From Juventus to Parma, and to the other Milan power, Internazionale, Italian clubs showed they know how to win on the big stage. Even Napoli joined the fun The Blues won the UEFA Cup in 1989.
But since Jose Mourinho's Inter last tasted success on the continent in 2010, Lega Calcio has come up short. The Milan giants, in particular, have failed to make any headway. Only Napoli and Roma have been viable alternatives to Juventus. The duo has played second fiddle to the champions for the past seven seasons, but have been nowhere to be found in Europe.
Roma nearly changed the narrative last term when they eliminated Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the Champions League quarterfinal. Liverpool had other plans.
Eusebio Di Francesco gave a tactical masterclass in outwitting Barcelona. Next season gives him an opportunity to prove it wasn't a fluke. The Giallorossi could surprise many.
Luciano Spalletti took over a rudderless Inter, drifting aimlessly in the waters of mediocrity. A year of laser-focused dedication produced the club's first UCL qualification since 2011/12.
The Italian tactician is now set to lead the club not only to challenge Juventus' dominance of the league but to also put up a strong showing in Europe's elite competition. Signing Radja Naingolan from rivals Roma to strengthen his midfield indicates his intent.
Napoli are not left behind. Diego Maradona's former side nearly ended their three-decade wait to win a Scudetto. They'll want another crack at it in 2018/19. The Champions League is also on the menu as Carlo Ancelotti has been brought in to get the job done.
Maximiliano Allegri also wants to push the Old Lady over the line.
This sets up an interesting season ahead for the Italian clubs. Even failure in the Champions League can be a blessing for one or two, as it was for Atletico Madrid last season. The Old Lady's experience in the competition and Carlo Ancelotti's pedigree could swing the pendulum in Italy's favour.